Sucker punch!

May 14, 2013 15 comments

This graphic is from my favourite tee – the shirt is a well-worn item on its last legs, but I don’t want to cast it out of my wardrobe yet: its status though has been downgraded to sleepwear / exercise-wear.2013-05-13 09.31.28

The reason for it’s survival is staring back at you from the page – it is a classic example of a paraprosdokian.  The twist in the tail is witty but catches people off-guard. It may bring a wry smile to a few faces, but chances are that many of them would be annoyed.

Don’t we often behave this way when we respond to our family, friends and co-workers?

A team-member walks up to the manager and says, “Boss, I closed the XYZ Technologies order. It will cover my quota for the next two months.”

Manager responds, “About time too. You have been messing up my numbers for the last 2 quarters.”

How about this one? A colleague walks up to you and says, “Did you hear the news? I have been promoted as Manager of the division”. You respond in a bland voice “Congrats, buddy. All the best,” There is no joy on your face either.

A scene that is played out at so many homes – son runs excitedly to Dad, who has just got home from work, and says “Dad! Dad! I hit a six in the cricket match at school.” Dad, who has had a terrible day at the office, responds “That’s nice! Go tell mom that I want a cup of tea.”

Energy Sappers! Motivation Killers! Spoil-sports! That’s what a lot of us unknowingly end up being by not taking charge of our emotions.

The Manager lost a huge opportunity to push the average-performer into a consistent good performer when he refused to pick up the cue to motivate the subordinate. An effusive and positive response from him could have set the tone for a constructive dialog with his team-member.

The miffed colleague in the second sample probably was in the running for the Manager’s position and when it went to a friend the resentment and frustration showed – this person could have managed emotions in a mature manner and participated in the colleague’s success.

The Dad quite obviously was behaving like a child here. Drowning in his own frustrations the parent ended up disappointing his own child. If he were in charge of his emotions this situation could have been used to help him recover from the bad vibes at the office and return him to a happy state. In the process his child would have stayed happy and excited too.

It’s important to be able to take charge of our emotions. So much happens during a day or in the course of a year, some happy events and some not so happy ones; the idea is to interpret and understand each of and respond in a mature way.

It’s important to celebrate the success of your friends, associates and family-members. Relationships can be strengthened or broken by your reactions.

And it’s important to rationalize when one fails – derive the right messages from the situation with the intent to recover from the fall. Wallowing in self-pity or displaying anger and scorn would be extremely short-sighted and destructive ways of dealing with the situation.

Our inability to react logically or sensibly can have a devastating effect on the recipient of that unexpected blow!


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The author, Jayadev Menon, has his own consulting & training practice, AKSH People Transformation.  To know more about his Training and Coaching solutions visit or write to


Angel calling!

May 8, 2013 12 comments

The call came this morning; thought I must share this message while its still fresh in my mind.

There is a huge backlog at the Sales Coach blog. In 2013 articles haven’t been presented at the rate maintained in 2012.

Gives you their precious time!

Gives you their precious time!

Something’s missing – has the zest gone out of the activity? And that’s when the man who, a little over a year ago, had pushed for this blog’s creation made a phone call. Well, to be honest, that call came a few days back; today’s one was the booster dose!

He asked why the blog is not active these days and I replied “I have lost my mojo; am wondering whether it is worth the effort? What is the purpose?”

His answer was simple, “The purpose hasn’t changed. It is the same today as it was a year back. And it’s simple …. The blog itself is the purpose!”

Can it get simpler than that? Straight and unambiguous!

During the conversation I realized that while the purpose had not changed, but my attitude towards it had. I was clogging my mind with questions that weren’t germane to the issue – missing the wood for the trees?

Have you felt that way? A project that was started with so much energy and gusto starts losing meaning in a while. You wonder whether it’s worth the effort and whether its pursuit would lead you to the results you had hoped for.

You become less intense about it and soon lose focus. And soon you are desperately looking for something else to do. Life becomes a meaningless morass. Been there?

Time to stop meandering in the wilderness! Don’t fool yourself into thinking that the careless wandering would eventually lead somewhere. For a lucky few it may but for the majority it only means frustration, dejection and failure.

It pays to realize early enough that you are headed the wrong way. And you probably are one of the lucky few who have a Guardian Angel, someone whose call would come when you are down and out.

But then again do you realize that the person means well – do you see the person as a helping or hindering influence? It pays to listen because he called only because he cared.  Such friends aren’t going to say that he or she is your revitalizer-dose; you need to realize that.

My pick-me-up friend called again today, to check how things were at the blog and to find out whether I had made any progress with my book. Yes, that is the other major project that is hanging fire. A book! I am going to kick-start that one too thanks to the energizing phone conversation with this friend.

Do you have such an angel investor in your life? This friend or guide may not give you money, but provides something that’s just as valuable, his or her time?

If there is such a person, my next question is …. Are you listening?


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The author, Jayadev Menon, has his own consulting & training practice, AKSH People Transformation.  To know more about his Training and Coaching solutions visit or write to

Johnny is a good man!

April 30, 2013 12 comments

It’s Saturday night and we were meeting with friends at Kovalam’s famous Hawa Beach (3rd Beach). The plan was to enjoy a seafood meal at one of the beachfront shacks that line the length of this popular tourist destination.

We walked along the tiled walkway that separates the restaurants from the beach, to check the sights and the available seafood. The walk had made us thirsty and a chilled beverage was the need of the hour. We had made a short-list of the restaurants to choose from after checking the stuff on display. A restaurant that wasn’t crowded got our vote – Well, most shacks had a handful of diners because this is the fag end of the tourist season, with the weather getting hotter each day in Kerala.

The Service Staff who ushered us to our seats had a warm smile and made us feel welcome. All of us noticed it, but it was my wife who captured the essence of the experience while we walked back to the car after 2-3 happy hours of chatting, drinking and gourmandising:

“One doesn’t need a degree in Hotel Management to do a great service job. Till what Class you think that guy has studied – not even High School, I guess. But, just look at the way he remembered to do and say the right things at the right time. Fantastic! He made our visit to the place worth remembering.”

How does one teach Service Staff such things?

I’ve been to so many fine-dining restaurants and received such indifferent service. The staff usually treat visitors with such disdain. They somehow fail to think long – term or  from the customer’s point-of-view. They are busy doing a job.

So, what did Johnny do that made us feel different? No, this isn’t Johnny as in “Johnny-come-lately” or “Some Johnny”; that is his name! Mr.Johnny is special.

He wasn’t wearing a starched uniform or speaking in a clipped accent, but most wait staff at Kovalam know a smattering of English thanks to the interactions with 1000s of foreign tourists. He didn’t have slicked-back hair and his grooming was ordinary. But, all that just didn’t matter. He overwhelmed us with Care!

He suggested the best fish and the preparations that would suit our palate. When the food arrived he placed the food ordered at the right places, having remembered who had ordered what. Even when he was far from our table I noticed him glancing our way to check whether the glasses had beverages in them. He was not only keeping us happy but ensuring that the restaurant got more business. It was smart thinking!

While we ate the food Johnny stopped by to refill the plates and then asked the ladies whether the preparations had come out right – “How does it taste, Madam? Is everything okay?”

Post the meal his question was “Did you enjoy the meal?”

And after we settled the check and rose to leave he asked “Next time you aren’t going anywhere else? Come straight to our place and we will ensure that you have a good time.” Bingo!

It was a clever thing to say, but it also meant that he had heard us discuss the other restaurants on the beach. My wife and I had been telling our friends, who are from out-of-town, that we come here often and the other shacks serve good food too. He wasn’t lurking to gather juicy titbits from our conversation, just that when he visited our table the relevant bits of our exchanges stayed in his head to be used at the opportune moment. It is a useful skill.

Isn’t it plain common sense? I mean …  Customer Service:

–          Receive the customer with a smile

–          Help them make the choices

–          Suggest without sounding opportunistic

–          Be around to help

–          Sense the mood and the need

–          Keep the interaction going without intruding

–          Check whether the customer is happy

–          Be there to help throughout

–          Confirm that everything went well

–          Sign off in style

–          Tell the customer that you look forward to seeing them again

Johnny did all that with such style and he had not been taught any of it. He just picked it up along the way. He might just blink if one were to ask him about CRM, CLM and CSAT.

But he had what is took …. Service Attitude. The books tell you everything you wish to know on the subject but ultimately service is about sensing, feeling and doing.

The bill was not a small one but we were beaming as we walked away!

Johnny proved once again that ….. Good Customer Service makes great Business Sense!


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Fuzzy logic!

April 19, 2013 20 comments

During a recent train journey I started chatting with the gentleman seated opposite and discovered that he is a distributor and retailer of electronic components (Those weird tiny stuff stuck on boards inside your Computer, TV and Hi-fi systems!) – he’s been in the business since the early 80s, a seasoned campaigner. Being naturally curious about Sales and Business Management I quizzed him on trends in his category (inputs from various market segments are of great value to Consultants). He spoke about changing demand patterns, the disappearance of small-time technicians and hobbyists. These days the major chunk of his business was through OEM Sales – manufactures in SME segment bought components in bulk for the electric and electronic products they made. Somewhere along the way the conversation, almost inevitably, veered to Chinese products, because they are everywhere and in every industry. He said that the components trade had taken a double hit – there was cheaper China components flooding the market and then to add fuel to the fire local manufacturers were directly procuring finished products from Chinese factories to avail the low-cost production facilities there.

Instead of getting demoralized and defeated by this trend he too had started trading in finished products sourced from China. Sensing the opportunity quite early this savvy businessman started taking orders from the network of outlets to which he distributed components and supplied them with components and finished products sourced from Shanghai and Guangzhou. I praised the smart moves he had made and then posed a question – “I hear that one needs to be careful because there are a lot of poor quality products available too? How did you ensure that the stuff you got was good? Didn’t you face the risk of facing dissatisfied customer lining up outside your shop with complaints?”

He replied with a smile – “I have been in this business for a while and I know a bad product when I see it. And then there is something known at gut-feel; you just know when the stuff is good. But it also makes sense to back up your intuition with some buffer stock – that will help to cover any damaged items brought back by our clients.”

“Sound thinking!” I said to myself.

He words made me think about a panel discussion I had watched the other day on a Business Channel where the anchor asked a few industry leaders, “What steps do you take to stay ahead of the game in these troubled times?”

Mr Ajay Nanavati, CEO of 3M India, responded in this fashion (these aren’t his exact words) ”This market is a decision-maker’s worst nightmare –  instability in government, choppiness in the advanced economies and slowdown in our own markets. In order to navigate this market one really has to learn to read the tea leaves. Dig deep and use all your experience to come up with solutions that may seem radical and absurd. But then we are living in absurd times. It may still go wrong, but this market does not permit you to come up with text-book solutions. One has to rely a lot of intuition”.

That word again!

I am reading “Working with Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman and in the very first chapter he writes about intuition. Goleman says that this skill comes with experience – that it’s our subconscious applying logic based on our past experiences on the subject or situation; some people call it wisdom, he said.

Goleman has also said in the book that almost all successful people rely on gut-feel. They are able to go beyond the limits set by rules learnt in text-books and come up with unique and different answers to the usual problems.

So, the next time you assess a situation and decide to take the road less travelled, I’d say … follow your gut!

Categories: Leadership Tags:

What’s the rush?

April 18, 2013 12 comments

(Part -2 of the 3-part study on Customer Experience.)

As a customer I have always felt something’s amiss when the Salesperson rushes me to make a decision. Statements of the sort, “You have to tell me in the next one hour!” or “The offer lasts only till the end of the day”, made me smell a fish. How about you?

Prakash and Priya were buying a car – the need was a city runabout, a small car that would be easy on the pocket, on upfront cost and recurring cost. Priya would be the user, but Prakash, being the more car-savvy one of the two, did the buying. In Part-1 we saw them reach a decision and buy the car from a popular maker.

But in the run-up to that purchase Prakash had visited numerous outlets to test-drive cars and to gather information on the models that were priced in their budget range. The reception he got from the Salespersons at the dealership and the steps they took to acquaint him with the car and the process were worth further study.

There was one particular 3-day spell in the month-long exercise during which Prakash felt choked and haunted. He was analyzing a car that was at the higher end of the price range and the terrible episode was sparked by his first call to the dealership. The designated salesperson immediately brought a car for a test-drive and delivered the message in the sweetest manner possible. He increased the self-esteem of the potential buyer by remarking how smart Prakash looked in the car and how it would feel each day to use such a classy car.

After the drive the Salesperson requested Prakash to visit the showroom in order to check their facilities and also to get information on the finance and registration formalities. Prakash obliged by making the visit the very next day.

Prakash was not sure that he and Priya would buy this model – mainly on account of the acquisition / maintenance cost. But, the Salesperson wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer. He asked how soon they would make a decision and Prakash gave a vague reply because he had more or less made up his mind, after a quick chat with his wife, not to buy this brand / model.

But the Salesperson, quite obviously under pressure to make the sale, kept calling. He would call 3 – 4 times in the day and each time give some sort of inducement or speak about the benefit of an immediate decision. He would call when Prakash was busy at work and later when he is relaxing at home. There was no way of getting away from this person – and when he wasn’t calling there would be text messages to remind the customer about the pending decision.

Prakash had mentioned after the first day that although they had not decided yet they would going for another brand, but the Salesperson was not willing to give up. However his constant follow-up was actually driving his potential customer nuts.

On the third day Prakash had to use harsh words and threaten the Salesperson with dire consequences if he called again. He had been driven up the wall and couldn’t handle it any longer.

While enthusiasm and perseverance are good qualities it can’t be taken to the extent that customers feel annoyed or harassed. A professional sales person would know where to draw the line in this regard. He would stop following-up on the sale when he realizes that the customer has made up his mind to buy another product.

He also knows that the thoroughness of the work done by him will ensure that the customer would call him if there is any change of plan.

In fact it’s something he would do as a closing routine “I would have loved to get your sale, but I respect your decision to go elsewhere for the purchase. However, if you do change your mind feel free to call me. Happy driving!”

That’s the focus of your pitch – to make sure that the customer goes away having positive thoughts about you and your product.

Haste only makes a great waste!

Courtesy alone isn’t enough!

April 5, 2013 6 comments

(Part-1 of a 3-part study on Customer Experience. )

That title may sound counter-intuitive because from childhood we have been told that “courtesy & manners maketh the man”!

Let me tell you a story …Hyundai Eon - Interior

It was Priya’s long-cherished dream to own a car and the urgency of that desire grew in recent times due to circumstances that will be explained in due course. She didn’t have much travelling to do and hers was a desk-based job; taking a cab or a rickshaw to work and for the recreational trips to town would have seemed like the sensible option going the spiraling fuel and living costs. But after joining a software company last year she found even the new recruits coming to work in their own shiny cars while she as Manager was still using public transport. She imagined them making jokes at her expense and decided to correct the situation. Husband Mr.Prakash was given the mandate to get her a suitable small car – something that wasn’t a gas guzzler and would be easy to drive around. Not that she wasn’t going to pay – but having no clue on how one went about choosing and buying she left it to the more experienced person. Prakash was to do the leg-work and tell her when there were papers to sign.

Prakash had always used Hyundai cars because the dealership had given him excellent support and the cars had been trouble-free – but Priya’s friends recommended a Maruti, good mileage and low maintenance they said. After doing the rounds of the dealerships in town they zeroed in on two models, one from each manufacturer. The cars were pretty evenly matched – the prettier Hyundai model was offset by the better mileage of the Maruti. But then there was a clincher offered by Rajeev, the salesman from the Hyundai dealership.

“Sir, we have a few pieces of our previous model – it isn’t much different from the new one, but it’s stock that’s been with us for 3 months. So, I can offer you an additional discount of Rs. 20,000 for it.”

Now, that was huge! The Maruti’s advantages seemed to pale when this discount was factored in. Prakash convinced Priya that it was worth accepting and that she should think no further.

It was Prakash who took the lead and visited the showrooms for initial discussion, it was he who test drove the cars and he also did the necessary paper-work to acquire a loan for the purchase.

Rajeev was a courteous guy. He had a pleasing manner and when asked he provided all details. When pressed for discounts he obliged with a waiver of Insurance Charges and threw in some accessories as freebie too. He had also topped it with the discount offer on the older version.

Although Rajeev was affable and courteous during the interactions Prakash found it extremely difficult to get through to the man on the phone. During the 3 week long process he always had to call more than once to get through and never found his calls being returned when there was a busy tone – he invariably had to call after a while. Text messages were responded to only after a reminder was sent.

After the purchase was finalized Prakash has to run to the dealership to submit papers because Rajeev never seemed to have time to make a visit. The incentive of the extra discount kept Prakash and Priya from cancelling the deal.

On the day prior to the registration Rajeev mentioned the need of a document for submission to the Transport Authorities’ Office. He said it was necessary to complete the process – this had not been mentioned earlier. Prakash was livid but couldn’t do anything because they were too far gone to cancel the deal. The registration was delayed by another week while they got the necessary paper and it need not be emphasized here that the buyers were thoroughly disgusted.

When Rajeev was asked why he did not have a proper checklist that would make the process clear to the customer he said that most people knew and that he was surprised Prakash did not know.

The customers drove away with the car with mixed feelings – they wondered whether the whole process had been worthwhile. To make a saving they had had to undergo a lot of stress, all thanks to Rajeev’s inability to understand and respond to his customer’s needs.

Rajeev could have made it a happy experience for Prakash and Priya by doing a few simple things.

  1. Answer phone calls promptly
  2. Respond to customers requirement with speed and clarity
  3. Proactively understand the customer’s expectations and meet them
  4. Sense the customer’s feelings (positive & negative) and respond empathetically
  5. Have absolute clarity on the Sales Process and deploy it appropriately
  6. Tell the customer in advance what is expected from them at each step so that there are no surprises
  7. Not take the customer for granted
  8. Check with the customer at each stage to confirm that they are satisfied

It is great that Rajeev has a pleasing personality and good manners, but that is not enough. He has to ensure that he performs the role of Sales Professional too.

Courtesy + Performance = Great Customer Experience

(The next 2 parts will deal with the Car Loan and the Sales Fulfillment processes.)


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To contact AKSH People Transformation for Training and Coaching solutions go to or write to us at

Categories: Ideas

Your face is your fortune!

April 1, 2013 14 comments

Harish, the Business Head of Netwhizz Technologies, is presenting a portal solution to a client (MD & Sales Manager present). This is a follow-up meeting and the Tech Specialist is with him to provide inputs on the “how” bits of the solution. They are describing to the client, who is in the Education Services business, the component of the solution – how their portal concept would help to improve his online presence and the ways this investment would provide useful business returns.

The meeting has not been going well because the MD is not happy with the solution offered and he was not making any attempt to hide his displeasure. The solution seemed too plain and uninteresting. He didn’t see it giving him any of the expected results. He said that Netwhizz had not read his requirements well and were trying to palm off a second-hand solution.

The Bossman walked up to the white-board to explain couple of ideas he had thought up since the first meeting. He wanted to portal to be different from those of his competitors – it had to stand-out! He had thought up the flow (how a person visiting the website would interact with the elements seen there) and even conceived a catchy interface that would be in the form of a game. But it was not cast in stone, he said; if they could rework the idea with any other interesting concept which could make his portal interesting he was willing to play along.

ImageWhile his back was turned to the rest of the group Harish looked at his tech-man and made a funny face, as if to say that the client was talking utter rubbish. He had an expression of disinterest throughout and was not paying attention.

While the client was describing the process Harish butted in to say – “That is what I have been saying all this while.”

The MD had not seen the play of emotions on Harish face, but his deputy had. But when this intrusion came the MD stopped the discussions and said abruptly – “Harish, thank you for your time. I am not happy with what you have shown me. If you can think up something better do come back another day with it. But don’t waste my time. In the meantime I am talking to a few other service providers too”. With that he walked out of the Conference Room.

Harish’s face now looked like it had received a slap with a wet fish!

We often forget that even when we remain silent our face is telling a big story – what’s going on inside our head is presented through our eyes and expressions.

And our words reveal those thoughts and feelings. Harish could have remained silent and listened to what the MD way conveying, even if it was what he had presented earlier. Then at an opportune moment he could have presented it as confirmation of the client thoughts. After all, letting the client win is the big idea in Sales.

Harish should never have conveyed his disinterest and scorn through his expressions – even if he felt those were poor ideas it could have been said outside the room. But then any smart Sales Pro knows that there are no stupid ideas in this world and you get nowhere by calling your client a fool.

Beware! One wrong expression, or word, can cost you a fortune!

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